New Braunfels city leaders continue to prepare for a potential bond election in 2023.
During a special called meeting recently, New Braunfels City Council members took the first step toward forming a 2023 bond committee that will be charged with recommending projects to keep pace with the demands of one of the nation’s fastest-growing communities.
The first step for council members during the Sept. 27 special session was deciding on the composition of the bond committee.
In 2019, the committee included a non-voting chair appointed by the mayor, residents from each of the six council districts appointed by council members, representatives from the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, New Braunfels Economic Development Corp., New Braunfels Utilities Board, the city’s Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Downtown Board, Library Board, River Advisory Committee, Historic Landmark Commission, Arts Commission and Watershed Advisory Committee, as well as appointments from the Comal and Guadalupe County Commissioners courts and at-large members through an application process.
The committee, assisted by staffers from the City Manager’s Office and the Public Works and Finance departments, will review facts and figures associated with past and current bond projects and recommend a prioritized list of projects cost-constrained to the current tax rate with additional projects for consideration.
Jared Werner, the city’s chief financial officer told council members that the city’s estimated capital financing capacity for fiscal years 2024-2029 was $120 million to $140 million.
“Like in 2019, the committee may say that’s something that they’re not comfortable with,” Werner said of staying within the estimated financing capacity for potential projects.
“They may feel they need to get to a point where they provide the council with a list that’s a little bit more than the capacity now as it shows. But at first, we’ll certainly challenge them to come up with a list that is constrained to that tax rate and capacity analysis.”
As the session was only to propose a direction to city staff, then iron out details in upcoming council meetings, members came to a consensus to form the committee in the same format as 2019, with the exceptions of substituting the Historic Landmark Commission and Arts Commission appointments with representatives from the Transportation and Traffic Advisory Board and the Workforce Housing Advisory Board, since the 2023 bond program is likely to consist heavily of road and street projects.
Council members emphasized, however, that any members of boards or commissions not a part of the bond advisory committee can still participate during any public meetings the committee may hold.
“We’re at a very fortunate position to be discussing yet another potential bond program for this community,” City Manager Robert Camareno told council members. “At least since my time here, we’ve been able to approve two bond programs, in 2013 and 2019, and now a possibility of a 2023 bond program as well.”
The $143 million bond program approved by New Braunfels voters in 2019 separated projects into four categories: Proposition 1, transportation and infrastructure; Proposition 2, parks and recreation; Proposition 3, public safety; and Proposition 4, library facilities.
He said that city finance staffers would continue to analyze that financing capacity between now and the potential 2023 bond election. Like the 2013 and 2019 bond programs, he said, alternative funding sources and partnerships would also be evaluated.
“Both of those programs benefited from partnerships with the school district, the EDC and through the use of impact funds, so we certainly look to do that again where it makes sense,” Werner said.
The city’s proposed timeline called for council members to create the committee by December so it could begin work in January. Preliminary projects will be presented in April before being reviewed and finalized by the committee members at the end of next year.
The timeline then calls for council members to finalize the bond proposal in January and call for an election for May 2023.
City leaders are also working to develop a new updated capital improvement plan that will identify a preliminary list of projects based on priority, project readiness, and available capital funding.
City staffers will present that document to the Bond Advisory Committee and the council with potential projects and preliminary designs that include project scope and cost estimates.